Immigrants in Nebraska

August 6, 2020

Nebraska has a small but growing immigrant population. About 1 in 14 Nebraskans was born in another country, and foreign-born residents help support the state's economy across sectors. Immigrants are a critical component of the Nebraskan labor force: 18 percent of the state’s life, physical, and social science professionals are immigrants, as are 22 percent of Nebraskans working in production occupations. As neighbors, business owners, taxpayers, and workers, immigrants are an integral part of Nebraska’s diverse and thriving communities and make extensive contributions that benefit all.

Seven percent of Nebraska residents are immigrants, while another 7 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.

  • In 2018, 138,953 immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 7 percent of the population.
  • Nebraska was home to 61,618 women, 65,205 men, and 12,130 children who were immigrants.
  • The top countries of origin for immigrants were Mexico (34 percent of immigrants), Guatemala (7 percent), India (5 percent), Myanmar (4 percent), and Vietnam (4 percent).
  • In 2018, 129,838 people in Nebraska (7 percent of the state’s population) were native-born Americans who had at least one immigrant parent.

Two-fifths of all immigrants in Nebraska are naturalized U.S. citizens.

  • 55,596 immigrants (40 percent) had naturalized as of 2018, and 26,358 immigrants were eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 2017.
  • Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of immigrants reported speaking English “well” or “very well.”

Immigrants in Nebraska are distributed across the educational spectrum.

  • About one-fourth (24 percent) of adult immigrants had a college degree or more education in 2018, while more than one-third (35 percent) had less than a high school diploma.

Education Level

Share (%) of All Immigrants

Share (%) of All Natives

College degree or more

24

33

Some college

18

35

High school diploma only

22

26

Less than a high school diploma

35

6

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens in Nebraska live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 60,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 41 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 64,815 people in Nebraska, including 32,704 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 in 20 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (25,154 children in total).

Nebraska is home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 2,910 active DACA recipients lived in Nebraska as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 3,635 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 75 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Nebraska had applied for DACA.
  • Fewer than 2,000 additional residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than 1,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

Immigrants are important members of Nebraska's labor force across a range of industries.

  • 93,236 immigrant workers comprised 9 percent of the labor force in 2018. 
  • Immigrant workers were most numerous in the following industries:

Industry

Number of Immigrant Workers

Manufacturing

21,236

Health Care and Social Assistance

15,806

Construction

10,708

Retail Trade

9,039

Educational Services

8,356

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following industries:

Industry

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all industry workers)

Manufacturing

20

Construction

13

Administrative & Support; Waste Management; and Remediation Services

11

Accommodation and Food Services

10

Health Care and Social Assistance

9

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

Immigrants are an integral part of the Nebraska workforce in a range of occupations.

  • In 2018, immigrant workers were most numerous in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Number of Immigrant Workers

Production

17,090

Transportation and Material Moving

9,985

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

9,148

Construction and Extraction

8,758

Management

7,319

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • The largest shares of immigrant workers were in the following occupation groups:

Occupation Category

Immigrant Share (%)
(of all workers in occupation)

Production

22

Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance

19

Life, Physical, and Social Science

18

Military Specific

17

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

15

Source: Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS data by the American Immigration Council.

  • Undocumented immigrants comprised 4 percent of Nebraska’s workforce in 2016.

Immigrants in Nebraska have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

As consumers, immigrants add billions of dollars to Nebraska’s economy.

  • Nebraska residents in immigrant-led households had $2.7 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.

Immigrant entrepreneurs in Nebraska generate hundreds of millions of dollars in business revenue.

  • 7,748 immigrant business owners accounted for 7 percent of all self-employed Nebraska residents in 2018 and generated $249.4 million in business income.

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